Early Seashore Resorts of Cohasset
Oliver H. Howe
From Oliver H. Howe, "Early Sea?Shore Resorts of Cohasset," Cohasset Cottager, July 4, 1930.
The early colonial life of Massachusetts was chiefly concerned with the hard necessities of subduing the forest and tilling the soil. Journeys were difficult and undertaken only from necessity. The people had no time and little inclination for recreation, and the quiet, moderate life of those times developed no pressing need for it, except for such pleasures as the people might have in their own households and with their neighbors, together with a certain amount of gunning and fishing.
It is doubtful whether the charms of the South Shore began to attract visitors to any appreciable extent before 1840. Aside from the Black Rock House, there was a small group of hotels here around 1850. "Biah" Baker had one on the little triangle now known as Wadleigh Park at the end of Green Hill Beach. A little later he built a hotel on the beach near the junction of Jerusalem Road and Atlantic Avenue. The locality is still marked by his old well. Later on he built on Jerusalem Road on what was later known as the Chappelle estate.
Another, called the Minot House, stood on the beach (on what is now Atlantic Avenue) a little to the eastward of Baker's second hotel. The Minot House had a barn and bowling alley. When torn down, the material of the hotel was made into the Nobscusset House at East Dennis.
Further to the eastward and on the landward side of the road was a long, rambling structure, with a two?story piazza, called the Franklin House. This stood abandoned and in solitary neglect for many years until, after being damaged by the 1898 gale, it was taken down.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert T. Beal much later kept a small boardinghouse on the easterly side of Jerusalem Road a few rods south of its junction with Atlantic Avenue. All these establishments were frequented principally by gunners and sportsmen.
The large residence a short distance west of the present Black Rock House was originally a hotel and bore successively the names Crockett House and Rockville House.
Turning for a moment to Cohasset village, Thomas Smith kept an inn in the house on Main Street at the southerly end of Cohasset Common, and more recently owned by Joseph St. John. Joel Willcutt's diary contains this record: "Mr. Smith's sign?post raised 24 June 1822."
The large house opposite, now owned by Dr. H. E. Fernald, was an inn later on under the management of Thomas M. Smith, son of Thomas just named. Later on (1887 to 1890) it was again a hotel kept by R. C. Davis and called the Brunswick.
Just previous to 1850 three notable boardinghouses were started at about the same time. Mr. and Mrs. John Hunt kept one in the house high on the hill near the junction of Jerusalem Road and Atlantic Avenue, for many years owned by "Judge" Kelley.
Another, the outstanding old-time resort of Cohasset, was the Pleasant Beach House kept for many years by Peter C. Kimball and his estimable wife. It stood high above the ledges, near what was long known as Kimball's Point. This house had a great reputation for its fine cooking. Delicious "schrod," lobsters, clams, and potato chips, added to the delightful sea breezes and picturesque scenery, attracted people from far and near. The house stood until 1881, when it was burned. After some delay, during which the business was carried on in a small way in two cottages, another hotel was built on the point and run for some years mainly by the son, Henry B. Kimball, until the building was burned in 1909, and the location finally sold for residential purposes to Col. Henry L. Kincaide.
A third and notable boardinghouse was kept for many years on Jerusalem Road, nearly opposite the junction with Nichols Road, by Mr. and Mrs. Warren Bates. It had a very high grade of guests, many of whom came from year to year.
A similar quiet and select house was kept some years later by Mrs. Winslow in the old Lothrop House at Sandy Cove (now the home of Mr. Charles Higginson).
The success of these early establishments?the first that really attracted persons of culture?was due largely to the wives of the proprietors. Mrs. Peter Kimball, Mrs. Warren Bates, Mrs. John Hunt, and Mrs. Winslow were all superior women, excellent cooks, and careful housekeepers, women of high character and fine personality.
Much of the character of our summer residents was dependent upon the hospitality and excellence of their houses. Many persons who came as transient guests returned to build houses here and to become permanent summer residents. The charm of Cohasset impresses all comers, and in fact many native sons and daughters who went elsewhere after marriage have returned to spend their lives here.
Cohasset has not developed large hotels, but has multiplied summer homes. Many of our summer residents have felt a deep interest in the welfare of the town. The hotels and boardinghouses have often been connecting links, introducing the stranger to a quiet and pleasant life amid charming and delightful scenery.